Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review of "Wildwood Creek"

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Review: I have enjoyed Lisa Wingate's previous novels, but I would rank "Wildwood Creek" as one of her best. Wingate's trademark humor and small town charm is infused with excitement and intrigue. Two stories, one past and one present, are each strong enough to stand on their own, but create a gripping read when combined.  There is mystery and suspense in the lives of both modern day Allie Kirkland and past day Bonnie Rose.  When Allie Kirkland becomes involved in a production focusing on the dark history of Wildwood Creek, their lives intersect. 

The plot of "Wildwood Creek" moves fast, alternating between Allie's story and Bonnie Rose's story.  There is a sense of foreboding in each; and just when the tension mounts, the focus switches to the other character. Bonnie Rose's tale is particularly engaging.  She suffers physical and emotional scars from her past and faces mysterious dangers in her new town.  The sense of fear that hovers over Wildwood Creek and the evil permeating from its overbearing leader is almost palpable. Bonnie Rose's voice brings to life the characters and paints a vivid scene of the harsh realities of life in her new town. Fast forward to present day, and Bonnie Rose has become a legendary name in the town of Moses Creek where old-timers sing tunes portraying her as a witch.

Wingate cleverly links the past and the present together by making the town and the mystery of Bonnie Rose the focus of a reality television show, which is not without its own secrets.  Allie's experiences in the production range from creepy to humorous.  There are funny moments as Allie adapts to reliving life in the 1860s, which provide lighter moments in the plot.  Wingate also builds romance into Allie's story, but it definitely is not the prominent focus of the novel.  Like Bonnie Rose, Allie finds herself face-to-face with death.  Although the suspense is mild and the danger is easily resolved, it is enough to bring tension to the plot without becoming too heavy.  The truth of Bonnie Rose's life after Wildwood Creek remains a mystery until the end of the novel, when all is revealed.  The conclusion is slightly brushed over, but with just enough detail to give readers a satisfying ending to both tales.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Bethany House through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Bethany House: With love and loss tangled together, how was she to know where her life would lead?

Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream. 

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review of "Porcelain Keys"

Rating: 5 + Stars
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Review: Without a doubt, Sarah Beard's debut novel, "Porcelain Keys," is one of the most captivating books that I have read recently.  Emotional, graceful, fragile, and strong, this young adult novel transcends boundaries of age and becomes a novel that adults will fully appreciate and enjoy.  Music plays a prominent role in "Porcelain Keys," and the plot soars with its own lyrical melodies.  Beard proves adept at crafting three dimensional characters with scars and secrets that are slowly brought to light.  Like a song that grasps you from the very first note, "Porcelain Keys," grabs you on the first page.  From the moment I read the opening scene, I was engaged in Aria's journey that swept me away on the notes of her life, both the highs and the lows. 

Beard treats readers to not only a love story, but a life story.  The budding relationship between Aria and Thomas is a central part of the novel, but the story transcends far beyond a romance.  Beard constructs a plot full of imagery, detail, and emotion.  I sympathized with the characters, especially Aria and Thomas, whose feelings were raw and multi-faceted.  They both have struggles to overcome as they begin their transitions into adulthood.  Those struggles are painful to witness, but make the song of this story much more poignant and memorable.

"Porcelain Keys" is not a light-hearted story; it is a novel with substance and soul.  Sarah Beard writes on her website that she began writing this novel 6 years ago and shares her inspiring story behind "Porcelain Keys" (read more at Her efforts give readers a book worth reading and recommending, and I will certainly anticipate reading more books from Sarah Beard in the future.  

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Sarah Beard. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Aria's life is full of secrets--secrets about her mother's death, her father's
volatility, and her dream to go to Juilliard. When Aria meets Thomas, he draws out her secrets, captures her heart, and gives her the courage to defy her father. But when tragedy strikes and Thomas disappears, Aria is left alone to transform her broken heart's melody into something beautiful. Porcelain Keys is a captivating love story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.

Book Trailer: 

Book Information:
Title: Porcelain Keys
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc. (February 11, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1462113966
ISBN-13: 978-1462113965

Author Bio: SARAH BEARD is the author of Porcelain Keys, a YA contemporary romance. She has a degree in communications from the University of Utah and splits her time between writing and raising three energetic boys. She is a cancer survivor and a hopeless romantic. She enjoys reading and composing music, and lives with her husband and children in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow Sarah on twitter at @authorsarahb, or at Her website is

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review of "Minding Molly"

Rating: 2.5 Stars
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Review: "Minding Molly" is the third novel in Leslie Gould's Amish series "The Courtships of Lancaster County."  Each book is based on one of Shakespeare's classics, and Gould's latest release takes its inspiration from "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  I have enjoyed the previous two books in this series and Gould's portrayal of the Amish. Unfortunately, I never made a connection to the characters or the plot of this novel.  Molly Zook's bossiness and controlling attitude kept me at arm's length throughout most of the book. Although she begins to loosen up towards the end, and we begin to see her insecurities, the change did not come soon enough for me.  Because the story is told from Molly's first person perspective, it is also difficult to relate to the other characters. Not knowing the thoughts and motives of Molly's two potential suitors does keep you guessing who she will ultimately marry, and at times, it seems she is destined to remain single.

Overall, the plot of "Minding Molly" is anti-climatic.  Molly's family is struggling with serious issues, including the recent death of her father, her mother's health problems, and a struggling family farm,  but much of the plot's focus is centered on a weekend camping trip. Some of the details become repetitive and mundane, but Gould's descriptions of Molly's farmers market and flower gardens paint a vibrant picture.  The camping trip scenes are a bit lackluster and choppy, putting emphasis on meal preparations, trail rides, Molly's controlling nature, and misunderstandings between Molly and her friends.  I felt like an outsider observing the scenes without a complete understanding of the participants' emotions.  As a result, the camping trip did not seem to help the plot's progress, it just left growing relationships more muddled.

I enjoyed "Courting Cate" and "Adoring Addie" far more than "Minding Molly."  All three novels are set in the same Amish community, so characters from the previous novels continue to make appearances.  Leslie Gould gives us glimpses into modern Amish life and shows us that Amish men and women face struggles similar to "Englishers." Her Amish characters are more than house wives and farmers; they are resourceful business owners and entrepreneurs with dreams not unlike ours.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Bethany House: Molly Zook Has Everything Planned Just Right. Or So She Thinks!

Molly Zook's always liked being in control, so she's struggling with her mother's wish that, to save the family farm, she marry Mervin Mosier. Especially after Molly meets Leon Fisher. He's from Montana but is now training horses at a nearby ranch. He's tall and muscular and confident--Molly has never met anyone like him and she's sure he feels the same about her.

Determined to let nothing get between them, Molly tries to coax Mervin into falling back in love with Molly's best friend, Hannah. A weekend camping trip in the Poconos could be just the place...but things quickly go awry, and it seems Leon and Hannah might be falling for each other instead! Will Molly keep struggling to control everyone and everything around her? Or will she learn to let God handle the twists and turns of her life?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review of "A December Bride" by Denise Hunter

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review:  Because I have enjoyed many of Denise Hunter's books, I decided to begin the "A Year of Weddings Novella" series by reading her contribution to the twelve novellas collection, "A December Bride."  Novellas can sometimes be disappointing to read because they lack character development and depth, but "A December Bride"  examines the past of the two main characters Layla and Seth.   Both Layla and Seth have been hurt in the past and face their share of uncertainties and insecurities. Set in Chapel Springs, readers of Denise Hunter's "Barefoot Summer will remember Layla as the sister of Beckett O'Reilly.  Although her recent past is shared in "A December Bride," readers will have a more thorough understanding of her childhood and family background if they have read "Barefoot Summer."   When Layla finds herself "accidentally" engaged to Seth,  the scene is set for a light and sweet romantic novella.  While having to spend more time together by staging Seth's house during the Christmas season, Layla and Seth have the opportunity to confront a misunderstanding from their past and begin building a new relationship.   In many ways, it reads like a satisfying seasonal Hallmark movie.   

"A December Bride"  is a short, light-hearted read that is perfect for a winter day.  With authors like Denise Hunter, Rachel Hauck, and Meg Moseley, "A Year of Weddings Novellas" series offers a promising collection of short stories.  

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from BookSneeze. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Zondervan:  What started as a whim turned into an accidental---and very public---engagement. Can Layla and Seth keep up the façade in Chapel Springs this holiday season---for the sake of her career . . . and his heart?

Under normal circumstances, Seth Murphy - the best friend of Layla O’Reilly’s ex-fiancé - would be the last person she’d marry. But the news of their upcoming (and phony) nuptials convinces a big client that Layla may be high-society enough to work for his agency - a coup that would put her fledgling home-staging business on the map. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, even when she was dating his best friend. Maybe she’ll never forgive him for the way he hurt her back then, but he has to try. And Layla is willing to keep up their engagement farce until she’s landed her client.
For Layla, it's the chance to save her career. But for Seth, it's his last chance to win her heart.


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